US Department of Defense Adding More Web Sites

    February 5, 2005

CNN: The US Department of Defense plans to add more sites on the Internet to provide information to a global audience …

– but critics question whether the Pentagon is violating President Bush’s pledge not to pay journalists to promote his policies.

This will undoubtedly be a lively and protracted debate. My question would be: Where is the line you draw with any government or state-related communication channel that separates independent commentary and reporting from propaganda?

The CNN report today comments on two existing websites that are run by US military troops trained in “information warfare,” which CNN says is a specialty that can include battlefield deception. CNN’s report quotes Pentagon officials as saying the goal is to counter “misinformation” about the United States in overseas media.

That doesn’t sound as though we can expect much in the way of independent reporting nor trust any of the information contained in any other US government website.

And it does come down to trust in the end. For instance, I trust the news and information I see and read that’s broadcast by the BBC on television and on the internet. Yet the BBC is hardly independent – it’s not a private company with shareholders, such as CNN’s parent is – with great influence wielded on its organization by the British government.

So why do I trust the BBC? Because it’s never given me any reason at all to cast doubt on anything it reports. Over time, that gives me trust. And at the heart of that trust is a belief that its reporting is fair and independent, without government control or influence.

The CNN report quotes Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, saying there is a reason why rules exist to separate journalism from government information:

Anytime that the government has to assure you, “Believe me, take my word for it, I’m telling you nothing but the truth,” you know you should be worried.

Yes, it all comes down to trust.

CNN article.

Neville Hobson is the author of the popular blog which focuses on business communication and technology.

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